Archive

March 20th, 2016

Rubio’s Exit and the GOP’s Spoiled Buffet

    Remember the euphoria with which the race for the Republican presidential nomination began? Such a buffet of political talent! Governors and ex-governors galore!

    By Tuesday those high spirits had deflated to a mewling plea for some indication — any indication — whether the party’s aghast traditionalists would have to make up with Donald Trump, make nice with Ted Cruz or make plans for bedlam at the convention.

    “Clarity” was a wish they kept uttering, a word I kept hearing. It made them sound like fog-enveloped travelers or stuffed-up flu sufferers waiting for the Sudafed to kick in.

    But Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Illinois and Missouri weren’t at all certain to bring relief, not even with Marco Rubio’s devastating loss to Trump in Florida and suspension of his campaign. It was a mesmerizing development, given how long many Republican leaders and pundits clung to their forecasts of his eventual transcendence, which was like Godot: right around the bend, coming at any minute, just a matter of waiting, waiting, waiting …

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Eating in the Dark

    I’m sick of writing about labeling genetically engineered foods.

    I’m sick of it because there’s really one thing to say, and I’ve said it before: Americans have a right to know how their food is produced. Period.

    The fact is that most processed food in the supermarket is genetically engineered. That means it includes ingredients that have genes from other species inserted in their DNA. Nearly every single American has eaten genetically engineered foods, but many of us don’t know it.

    Does it matter? That’s up to each individual.

    Just like it’s up to you whether you care if your food is kosher, gluten-free, low-carb, or anything else. You can decide whether it’s worth it to you to buy cage-free eggs or not, because the eggs are labeled. That doesn’t take freedom away from someone else who wishes to make a different choice than you.

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Clinton has won; Trump, not yet

    It's about the delegates now. By that measure, Tuesday was a great night for Hillary Clinton, and a mixed one for Donald Trump.

    On the Democratic side, it's pretty straightforward. Clinton wound up winning a squeaker in Illinois and leads narrowly in Missouri, but solid wins in North Carolina and Ohio and a blowout in Florida expanded her already unbeatable lead in delegates.

    For his part, Trump won Florida and all 99 of its delegates. He also won in North Carolina, a proportional allocation state, and in Illinois, where the winner takes most delegates. The statewide count was close in Missouri between Trump and Ted Cruz.

    But John Kasich won in Ohio, taking all 66 delegates, and will presumably stay in the race. Some people think his continued presence hurts Trump: That is, he'll pick up some more delegates, doing well in states where Cruz can't, and therefore help prevent Trump from wrapping up the 1,237 delegates he needs for a majority at the convention. But I lean toward the view that Trump is better off if his opposition is split between the Ohio governor and the Texas senator.

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‘Big Government’ Looks Great When There Is None

    After hearing Republican presidential candidates denounce big government and burdensome regulation, I’d like to invite them to spend the night here in the midst of the civil war in South Sudan.

    You hear gunfire, competing with yowls of hyenas, and you don’t curse taxes. Rather, you yearn for a government that might install telephones, hire a 911 operator and dispatch the police.

    From afar, one sees the United States differently. Donald Trump and Ted Cruz seem to think that America’s Achilles’ heels are immigration and an activist government. But from the perspective of a war zone, these look more like national strengths.

    Indeed, take what Trump is clamoring for: weaker government, less regulation, a more homogeneous society. In some sense, you find the ultimate extension of all that right here.

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An American Mussolini

    As you probably heard, Donald Trump canceled a rally in Chicago after scuffles broke out between Trump supporters and opponents around the arena where the candidate was supposed to speak.

    True to form, Trump blamed everybody but himself for this debacle. He eventually decided that Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was somehow at fault — and even threatened to send protesters of his own to disrupt rallies for Sanders.

    What was newsworthy was that Trump himself canceled the event. He normally revels in the clashes between protesters and supporters that erupt at his rallies.

    These confrontations have become routine, with the real estate mogul usually egging on his supporters to “rough up” interlopers. He’s cheered on supporters who’ve shoved, kicked, and punched protesters — even people who’ve simply stood silently at Trump’s rallies.

    Throughout it, he’s had the gall to claim that he deserves credit for keeping the events as calm as possible.

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Why China has so much trouble with change

    Economic reforms are much like New Year's diet resolutions: easily announced and easily forgotten. So perhaps it shouldn't be surprising that the pronouncements that have emerged from China's National People's Congress -- pledges to slash overcapacity, open up the financial system, accept lower growth -- echo unfulfilled promises from previous Party gatherings.

    Still, China prides itself on being different. The country can seemingly create new industries overnight, and has waged an anti-corruption campaign that reportedly punished 300,000 officials in 2015. Why does a state that holds so much power have so much trouble following through on its reform pledges?

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When it comes to Russia, what's good for the Trump Organization isn't necessarily good for U.S.

    When Donald Trump talks about his desire to have good relations between the U.S. and Russia, it's not a recent attraction. Trump's attempts to expand his business and his brand there date back decades, and this history casts a shadow over his pro-Russian foreign policy. As a presidential candidate, he courts Putin's favor, extending the charm offensive intended to build the Trump real-estate empire.

    "Wouldn't it be nice if actually we could get along with Russia?" Trump asked at a recent Republican presidential debate. It's a line he's used in rallies as well. Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin have exchanged praise, and Trump said he "would probably get along with him very well."

    Trump's attraction to Russia seems to be mutual. There is a Russian-language website that collects Trump news and offers sales of Trump books and products. There's even a Trump 2016 Russian-language mock campaign site.

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The problem with states' specialty license plates

    North Carolina offers drivers a license plate with the anti-abortion slogan "Choose Life," but for years has refused to offer a pro-choice plate. If you think that sounds like the state is unlawfully choosing between the two viewpoints, you're not alone. In 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit said the state had to play fair under the First Amendment and allow both.

    Last week, the appeals court reversed itself -- and not by choice. It was following orders, by applying the U.S. Supreme Court's 2015 decision that upheld a Texas license-plate program in which the state refused to allow a plate featuring a Confederate battle flag.

    The 4th Circuit's decision is technically correct under the Texas precedent. But it shows a serious flaw in the Supreme Court's free-speech jurisprudence.

    The Texas decision featured an unusual five-justice majority of the court's four liberals plus Justice Clarence Thomas. The logic was simple and binary. Either the license-plate program should be considered speech by the person choosing the design or it counted as government speech.

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The people of American Samoa aren't fully American

    The circumstances of the birth of Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz put constitutional citizenship into the headlines. Also in the news: A federal judge in Puerto Rico ruled last week that the Supreme Court's gay-marriage decision doesn't follow the flag to the island. What would happen if you mashed the two issues together, mixing birthright citizenship with the Constitution's applicability to U.S. territories?

    The answer to this otherwise random-seeming question is in fact before the Supreme Court right now. At issue is whether it's constitutional for Congress to deny birthright citizenship to people born in American Samoa, which has been a U.S. territory since 1900. In June, a conservative panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld the congressional rule, which uniquely applies to American Samoa and no other U.S. territory. Now the Samoan-born plaintiffs are asking the Supreme Court to review the D.C. Circuit's decision -- and asking Congress to change the rules.

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The dawn of the resistance?

    Desperate times call for desperate measures. The organized protest in Chicago that led Donald Trump to cancel a planned rally Friday may someday be remembered as the Dawn of the Resistance.

    Trump has fueled his campaign's rise with the angriest and most divisive political rhetoric this nation has heard since the days of George Wallace. No one should be surprised if some of those Trump has slandered or outraged respond with raised voices.

    The Constitution's guarantee of free speech applies to everyone, Trumpistas and protesters alike. Trump said over the weekend that he wants demonstrators who gatecrash his rallies to be arrested, not just ejected; he vows that "we're pressing charges" against them. Someone should educate him: Peacefully disapproving of a politician and his dangerous ideas is not a crime.

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